The Shotgun Blog
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Statism is a Mental Disorder
But according to the Alberta government:
Alberta continues to list homosexuality as a “mental disorder” along with bestiality and pedophilia, and doctors used the diagnostic code to bill the province for treating gays and lesbians more than 1,750 times between 1995 and 2004, government records show.
The province has known about the classification for more than a decade and the Conservative government first promised to change it in 1998. On Tuesday, Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky repeated that promise.
“It has no place in Alberta,” Zwozdesky said, adding he has called for a review of the entire 300-page diagnostic code. “It is simply an incorrect and unacceptable classification and I’ve ordered it to be removed immediately.”
Ah, gotta love a politician's understanding of the word "immediately." If they've been planning on doing this for twelve years, what's the hold up? Yet a political system with such lightening quick response times is suppose to run something as complex as health care? If socialized health care had been set up in the eighteenth century, bloodletting would have been discontinued as a covered service sometime in the 1970s.
And this is on an issue that is politically sensitive. Our elected masters have every interest in not offending homosexual pressure groups. Imagine them making an intelligent decision on something that's genuinely controversial? Which is why it almost never happens. See abortion.
My own reading of the political calculus is that the Alberta Tories have dragged their feet less through bureaucratic inertia, than a fine balancing of lobbyist bellyaching. As Deep Throat (the Watergate one) is suppose to have advised, follow the money. Who has an interest in keeping homosexuality as an officially listed mental disorder? Whoever is providing 1,750 plus treatments for gayness. Leaving aside what these gayness treatments might consist of - heterosexual pornographic immersion therapy? - that's a nice cash flow.
We may have socialized health care in Canada, but the bureaucrats who run the system know that most of our doctors are a two hour drive from a fatter American paycheque (or paycheck, if you will). Keeping antiquated treatments on the books can be a kind of thank you to the provincial medical associations. Canadian doctors might get paid less, but they also have fewer hassles about collecting on bills or dealing with upstart competitors. Just send the bill to the ministry - hernia operations, cancer therapy, gayness treatments or whatever - and the check's in the mail.
The Alberta Diagnostic Code is a pretty obscure bit of medical bureaucratese, so few people pay it much attention. From time to time there's an embarrassing news story like this one. Everyone's hair gets a little frizzed and it's forgotten the next day. The classification is offensive, but not so much so that homosexual groups will be screaming bloody murder.
The political cost is low for keeping gayness treatments on the books, but it's moderate for getting it off the books. A fair chunk of the Alberta Tory base does think homosexuality is a mental disorder, or worse a sin according to their religious doctrines. Why modernize the diagnostic code if it's going to piss off both a small clutch of doctors and the gay-is-sin crowd? Best to leave well enough alone. Until the political cost rises.
Beneath the politicking, there's a genuine issue at stake. The overwhelming majority of us know, at least from the time of puberty, whether or not we prefer those of the opposite sex. For a small minority, finding their orientation is less clear cut.
Sorting out sexual identity is an emotionally fraught experience that can take years, even decades. There is a role for specially trained psychologists to help people work out these concerns. It's a sensitive issue that the blunt hand of a bureaucratic state is ill equipped to deal with. Homosexuality isn't a mental disorder. Believing that government health care can cure "gayness" is, however, some sort madness.
Friday, December 24, 2010
War on Earth
'Tis the season for sentimentality.
The Christmas carols are full of it. Brotherhood. Peace. Joy to the world. It's John Lennon's insufferably pretentious anthem Imagine, without the off-key caterwauling. Far better the Huddersfield Choral Society telling me about peace on earth, at least they can sing beautifuly.
Vague expressions of empty pleasantries - the tonal equivalents of the air headed beauty queen's wish for world peace - would be less grating if they were taken less seriously. Singing that you want world peace costs you nothing, and exposes you only to the slightest risk of laryngitis. It also absolves you of personal responsibility.
It's not a goal that you, as an individual, can realistically achieve. It's something nice to say, that you won't be called on. Saying you'd like to lose twenty pounds is a goal with objective criteria. Few people sing about things they can fail at. So much of Christmas is really a warm bath. A nice sensation you don't have to earn.
The danger isn't that woolly headed people like deluding themselves - at it was in the beginning, so shall it be at the end - but that such woolly headedness is allowed to pass for public policy. People sing about peace on earth at Christmas, and then carry that vague wishfulness through the rest of the year, causing untold suffering. Witness the farce of the Middle East process, in which a free and civilized country (Israel) is forced to negotiate with its gangster and terrorist state neighbours.
If this were chalked up to being another example - regrettable but necessary - of realpolitik, deal with the people you gotta deal with, it would matter very little. It's that the peace process has taken on a moral life of its own. Even in August, a large swath of the Western electorate keeps humming about peace on earth. The mantra that as long as we keep talking, we're not shooting, misses a vital point, only one side in the Middle East is interested in shooting.
Peace - whether between individual nations, or the whole world - is not the product of "good will." The absence of violence is not the product of simply deciding to be nice. The milk of human kindness is not tapped by singing carols. Peace, benevolence, good will and prosperity are the careful products of centuries of thought, effort and re-examined failure.
That the typical Canadian - except the residents of some housing projects and Caledonia - can walk down the street in peace and security was not accomplished by wishing. It was hard and difficult work. Violence is easy. Take a club, bash it over your neighbour and get what you want. Negotiating in a civilized and rational manner takes a lot of work, though with practice it seems natural to civilized and rational men and women.
Leaving aside the psychopaths, who commit violence for its own sake, most violence is done to achieve an end. The acquisition of wealth from others, or power over them. The alternative is persuasion. Convince someone else to give you their money, or to follow you to achieve a particular end. That's the basic choice of social life for humans, freedom or force. Dress it up anyway you like, it's the choice that underlines everything in our daily lives, from business meetings to national elections to international treaties.
Force, as noted earlier, is the easiest option. The simplest to understand and practice. My club is bigger than your club, so do what I want. Not surprisingly this has been the default option for most of human history. It's still the default option in the more retrograde parts of the world. The Palestinian terrorists could, of course, buy the land they want, but that would require business acumen and negotiating savvy. Much easier to use your children as walking arsenals. The Israelis would never, of course, sell land to terrorists. They would sell and work with civilized human beings.
While plunder is certainly a leading motivation for war, thievery and political patronage, it's not the only one. Neither HItler nor Stalin were particular keen on personal wealth or luxury. Their motivation was power over others. I won't speculate as to why some want power over others, at least not in the way that totalitarian dictators seek it. Wanting power isn't itself a bad thing. If I want to build a chain of restaurants, I'm going to need workers. To accomplish my goal, I'll need to have power over people, but that power that is voluntarily obtained and strictly delimited.
Most of the wars in human history have been fought by dictatorships seeking to plunder other dictatorships, or freer nations. While Hitler was certainly keen to add to the glories and territories of the Reich, there was also the practical consideration that Nazi economics (National Socialism, after all) was unsustainable. To stay in power Hitler needed war.
Contrary to revisionists on both sides, the British Empire and the French Republic did not start either world war. Even going back as far as 1870, it was a militaristic Prussia (and then Germany) that provoked the comparatively liberal monarchy of Napoleon III. Once Germany became a free nation, after a thorough Allied occupation effort in the late 1940s, the country developed a fierce abhorrence of violence and war. Modern Germany is a pillar of European peace and security, because it is a free country.
Free nations tend not to start wars, and when they do it is usually for pre-emptive or moral reasons. The Americans seeking to smash the remnants of the Spanish Empire and liberate its possessions (Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines), or remove dangerous tyrannies like Iraq or Afghanistan. You can question whether those wars were sensible uses of blood and treasure, but the Americans profited not a whit financially, instead spending billions to rebuild the lands they had occupied.
War for oil (or other resources) is a short and simplistic slogan for placards, which plays on the naive cynicism of modern Westerners, who cannot imagine anything but economic motivations. The United States could have easily secured whatever natural resources, or land, it needed by negotiating with the governments then in place. It would have been cheaper and simpler than war.
Those who truly seek peace on earth, should seek freedom first. For all the paranoid ranting of our anti-American Left, the United States is not a rogue power bent on world conquest. If such a thing were true Canada would have ceased to exist decades ago. Free countries, like America, respect the sovereignty of other free countries, like Canada. Governments that do not respect the rights of their own citizens, will not hesitate to violate the peace and freedom of their neighbours' citizens. The first step to peace is to fight for freedom. Both at home and abroad.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Ignorance Leads to Apathy
Yes, ma'am they are indifferent:
Even with a posh royal wedding in the works, most Canadians aren't mad about the monarchy.
An exclusive Leger Marketing poll for QMI Agency reveals more than half of Canadians couldn't care less about the royals - including 26% who would like a divorce from the British monarchy. The survey finds females more likely than males to swoon over the royals, with just 19% of women calling for cut ties compared to 30% of men.
Leger VP Dave Scholz said the numbers reflect a waning sense of relevancy among a deeply divided public when it comes to the monarchy.
It's not so much that the monarchy is irrelevant, it's that Canadians know nothing about it. Canadian students are taught the wonders of multiculturalism, bilingualism and the obscure customs of very obscure tribes, but practically nothing about their head of state.
The Jacobins who have been running Canada since the 1960s reasoned, correctly it seems, that trying to directly challenging traditional Canadian institutions (like the monarchy) would backfire. Australian Republicans tried for decades to hold a referendum on the monarchy, only to lose it. Their Canadian counterparts are far more subtle.
Stop teaching children about the monarchy, the common law and the principles that under grid our parliamentary system, and as adults they will never think to consider these institutions "relevant." It's a slow motion cultural coup that has gone, mostly, unnoticed for two generations.
Drug War Mutiny
A sort of jury nullification:
The tiny amount of marijuana police found while searching Touray Cornell’s home on April 23 became a huge issue for some members of the jury panel.
No, they said, one after the other. No way would they convict somebody for having a 16th of an ounce.
In fact, one juror wondered why the county was wasting time and money prosecuting the case at all, said a flummoxed Deputy Missoula County Attorney Andrew Paul. District Judge Dusty Deschamps took a quick poll as to who might agree.
Of the 27 potential jurors before him, maybe five raised their hands. A couple of others had already been excused because of their philosophical objections.
“I thought, ‘Geez, I don’t know if we can seat a jury,’ ” said Deschamps, who called a recess.
And he didn’t.
The Prohibitionists are slowly losing the Drug War, by a simple process of attrition.
I'm Too Asian For this Blog
Really, I am:
Although university administrators here are loath to discuss the issue, students talk about it all the time. “Too Asian” is not about racism, say students like Alexandra: many white students simply believe that competing with Asians—both Asian Canadians and international students—requires a sacrifice of time and freedom they’re not willing to make. They complain that they can’t compete for spots in the best schools and can’t party as much as they’d like (too bad for them, most will say). Asian kids, meanwhile, say they are resented for taking the spots of white kids. “At graduation a Canadian—i.e. ‘white’—mother told me that I’m the reason her son didn’t get a space in university and that all the immigrants in the country are taking up university spots,” says Frankie Mao, a 22-year-old arts student at the University of British Columbia. “I knew it was wrong, being generalized in this category,” says Mao, “but f–k, I worked hard for it.
A personal story. My first class as an undergraduate at U of T was Economics. I walked into a large auditorium and everyone, and I mean every single student, in the room except for me was East Asian. I spent a good five minutes checking my notes, making sure I hadn't stumbled into third year Advanced Cantonese by accident. Then a old white man emerged from a door way and said: "Hi everyone, welcome to Eco 100."
It was a hard slog people. Five years - I was basically part-time for stretches - of studying next to bright, hard working, ambitious and dedicated students. How often did I mutter to myself that these people were too well behaved? How many bitter tears did I shed, dealing with people who were unfailing polite and considerate? I soon lost count of the number of lectures where - unbelievably - none of the students rudely interrupted the professor with a stupid question. How many times did I cross Hoskin Avenue, without once tripping on a drunk Asian frat boy? How often was I forced into tutorials packed with cute Asian girls, all of them studying for their CSC while still in second year? It was a painful experience. Don't know how I survived it.
After awhile the East Asians - most of them are Chinese, with a sprinkling of Koreans - began to remind me of another group of eager beavers. They too were hardworking, bright and dedicated students who used to dominate U of T's graduating classes. They were Scottish.
Those of our readers not victimized by a public school education, a sadly diminishing minority, will recall that much of this country's political, economic and civic life (from George Brown and John A Macdonald on down) was built and directed for years by Scots, most of them fiery and parsimonious Presbyterians.
They dominated fields like finance and engineering (there's a reason the Enterprise's engines were tended to by man named "Scotty") and helped create one of the most successful nations on earth. I saw quite a few of their descendants while at U of T, puking their guts out along pub row the night before their Poly Sci finals. There were honourable exceptions - as there always are - but the pukers outnumbered the pikers by a fair margin.
Contrary to urban legend, and it seems now the popular press, Asians are not a race of humourless robots who work from dawn to dusk, stopping only to nibble on their one daily bowl of rice. That's a racist cliche born in the days when Chinese immigrants were used to carry nitro into dark tunnels in the B.C. interior. The fear in those days - particular among trade unionists - was that the Chinese would swamp the young Dominion with cheap labour. There was much talk of Asiatics not needing European wage levels, since they lived so cheaply. No way to compete with the Yellow Peril.
The pony tailed handlers of nitro are long gone, replaced by their Computer Science doctorate wielding descendants. Amazingly enough, Chinese people like nice things too. BMWs, iMacs and luxury condos in Yorkville. When given the opportunity, all the peoples of the world will gladly adopt "European living standards." Why? Because people live on starvation wages only because they have to. Given half a chance - and Chinese were given less than that for decades - they will gladly accept better wages and better jobs. Self-betterment is part of the human condition.
The problem isn't so much that the "Orientals" work too hard, it's that the "Europeans" work too little. In my personal experiences at U of T, the Chinese were no brighter, or more energetic than their white Europeans counterparts. They were just more academically focused, because that's what their parents expected of them. It's what most immigrant parents expect of their off spring. People who were raised in brutal poverty, and fight to escape, and will only naturally want to pass on the same hard-driving traits to their children. People raised in plenty and comparative ease, will have different expectations.
The business (Commerce) and entry level science courses at U of T's downtown (St George) campus are dominated by East Asians. The Mississauga Campus is dominated by South Asians (think Gupta instead of Chan). The humanities courses on both campuses are overwhelmingly WASP or old stock European. The above article seems to be framing a white versus Asian conflict. It's more of a discrepancy of expectations between the children of immigrants and the children of the native born.
Certainly the waves of recent Asian immigrants have high standards. That's nothing new. The Scots and Jews also had high standards, some still do. What's changed is that the standards of old stock Canadians have dropped. Rather than teaching their children math, science, history and literature, they teach them Left-wing agitprop and emotionalism.
It's true that Asiatic cultures are far too collectivistic, but so were the cultures of the Eastern Europeans who settled the prairies a century ago. When questioned about whether those groups would assimilate successfully, Sir Wilfrid Laurier confidently predicted they would turn out as true Canadians. So they did.
The real danger with mass immigration isn't the threat of cheap labour, unskilled and semi-skilled immigrants actually push native born workers up the socio-economic ladder. Nor is it the pressure being applied to complacent old stock Canadians to up their game. It's that with multiculturalism these New Canadians have little incentive in become the true Canadians Laurier hoped for.
The success of Canada has rested on a skillful act of assimilation. Bringing in other cultures, take the best they provide, but instil in them (and especially their children) a respect and understanding of our individualistic culture, and our liberal democratic political traditions (which are mostly British in origin). The danger is not "them" overwhelming "us" but "us" forgetting the values that built this nation.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
The Birth of A Phrase
What Ike said:
In the final version, the president recalled that until recently the nation had no permanent arms industry, that “American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well,” but said that the country could no longer risk “emergency improvisation of national defense.” An adequate military establishment and arms industry were vital, he said, but their conjunction and “its total influence — economic, political, even spiritual” also had “grave implications.”
In introducing the term "military-industrial complex" Eisenhower, the classic American solider-statesman, could hardy imagine it would become the unthinking catch phrase of a generation of hippies. From the highest to the lowest, so to speak.
I'm with William F Buckley, who in 1956 famously quipped that he preferred, rather than liked, the moderate Republican President. Still, it's hard to imagine a greater contrast between the doped up, unshaven radicals who clogged American streets in the 1960s, warning about a covert coup by the military industrial complex, and the ram-rod straight solider patriot who lead the Allied armies on D-Day.
That foolish young people - then and now - have misused the term, does not make it worthless. Despite being mocked as a know-nothing by 1950s Leftists - ah, the perennial intellectual smugness of the Left - Ike was a highly intelligent, decent and perceptive solider and statesman. No political machiavelli like FDR. No military genius like MacArthur or Patton. He was a man of considerable talents, who served his country faithfully, nearly the whole of his adult life. HIs words, then, should be taken seriously.
In the early 1930s, Eisenhower was military aide to the Army Chief of Staff, one Douglas MacArthur. When called to testify before Congress, Major Eisenhower (a rank he held for sixteen years), would take the Washington public transit. His frequent pleas not to cut defense spending, in the depths of the Depression, were usually ignored. The military was an afterthought in pre-war American politics.
Between the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the holding of the Pusan perimeter, a transformation took hold in American political life. The emerging Cold War was unlikely to have a quick and decisive finish, except in Armageddon. Americans slowly became accustomed to being on a perpetual - albeit moderate-level - war footing.
The creation of a permanent and large scale arms industry - comparable to Europe's Merchants of Death, like Krupp and Vickers & Armstrong - was a new phenomenon to the Republic. Eisenhower understood such an industry was necessary, but that it was potentially dangerous to the traditions of a constitutional republic. It is a pity that the careful thoughts of a reasonable man, uttered with the best of motives, should have been hijacked by semi-literate, middle class barbarians.
A Pile of Potash
Did the Prime Minister cave to political pressure? Is January cold in Saskatchewan?
Sask. Party sources insist Wall never made a political argument to Harper nor did the party do polling on the issue. However, others did. Sources say PotashCorp did conduct a private poll showing between four and six Saskatchewan Conservative MPs would lose their seats in the next election if Ottawa did approve the takeover bid.
It is believed this information was relayed to the MPs, who in turn relayed it to the Prime Minister's Office in the days leading up to that Nov. 3 announcement. This became one of two key elements that convinced the minority Conservative government to change its mind.
Well, this is certainly a change for the Harper Tories. After years of betraying their principles to appease Quebec, they have now betrayed their principles to appease Westerners. Progress in the age old art of Canadian pork-barrell politics. Given enough time Harperites might even start sucking up to voters in Manitoba. Something to look forward to. I hear the Golden Boy needs some repair work done.
Whereas the American Senate acts as a sort of house of inter-regional horse trading, our Senate is a resting home for superannuated hacks. At the time of Confederation, it was believed that the the superannuated hacks would be harder to bribe, or otherwise manipulate, than the House of Commons hacks, who would still be in their prime grasping years. Having the old crooks keeping a watch on the younger and friskier crooks.
This left the job of inter-regional bribery - dignified in modern political discourse under the euphemisms of "transfer payments" and "national unity" - to the federal cabinet. The Prime Minister's role being that of Pork-Master-in-Chief. In other countries, the first job of the head of the national government is to defend the country from enemies foreign and domestic. Canada has no enemies, at least not our own enemies.
No one hates Canada for being Canada, they hate Canada for being friends with the Americans or the British. Since Wolfe sent Montcalm's boys packing, the big foreign policy decisions have been made in London, and later Washington. This left the Prime Minister free to focus on more important tasks, like reviewing the financing arrangements for golf courses in his own riding. The sort of stuff that really matters in a country with few real problems, and all of those largely self-inflicted e.g. Quebec nationalism, Medicare.
Roasting the Prime Minister for avoiding a turf war with Regina - after having badly lost a turf war to Danny "Chavez" Williams out East - seems a bit unfair. Canadians might say they want strong, principled and honest government, but they keep voting for whomever might give them the biggest cut of the government pie. Taxes are too high, cry the seniors. But don't even think of cutting CPP. The country is going bankrupt, cry the Bay Street types. But keep running corporate welfare schemes like the BDC and EDC. Everyone wants freedom, but only for themselves, and at everyone else's expense.
Once upon a time, many moons ago, Canadians did elect a man of integrity to the highest office in the land, Alexander Mackenzie. He replaced John A Macdonald, who had been caught red-handed during the Pacific Scandal. Mackenzie brought clean and efficient government to Ottawa. Naturally enough, he lasted only one term. Replaced, in turn, by Sir John A himself.
Sure, Macdonald had accepted hundred of thousands of dollars (in the money of the time) in campaign contributions from Hugh Allan, who had just been awarded the transcontinental railroad contract. Sure, Allan was in bed with American investors, though John A had promised an all Canadian (or British) road to the Pacific. But voters - even Victorian ones - have always wanted something for nothing.
Drunk or sober, Old Tomorrow promised everyone what they wanted to hear. Jobs! Feel Good Patriotism! Progress! Younger pols took note. Stand up for your principles and you wind up unemployed and forgotten, like old Alex Mackenzie. Manipulate, bribe and distort your way into power, and they'll put you on the ten dollar bill and erect a statue on Parliament Hill. Never has there been a clearer object political lesson in Canadian history.
When challenged on his motivations for cancelling the Potash purchase, Minister Clement gave an excellent impression of a chicken being plucked. Politics had nothing to do with stopping a private business transaction! No, sir. It was all about this thing called "net benefit to Canada." The deal, according to the Minister, had no net benefit to the country. Well, if you believe that what's good for Stephen Harper's political career is what's good for Canada, then that's probably true. If you believe that the good of this country is little served by the federal government manipulating private capital markets, then you might not agree.
The real question, however is not whether the Potash deal was a "net benefit" to Canada, but whether the Harper Tories are. Approaching the five year mark in government, the answer looks to be a pretty firm no.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Policing the Police: The G20 Edition
For 25-year-old Geoffrey Bercarich, a cyclist who alleges he was beaten by police while participating in a G20 bike rally, his experience with the OIPRD complaint process has only added insult to injury.
“There was a physical assault and this investigation is a mental assault,” said Bercarich, who suffered a bleeding nose and cut chin but was never charged following his arrest.
“It’s really bad and they shouldn’t investigate people like this.”
Established in October 2009, the OIPRD provides oversight for the handling of public complaints made against police. Any complaint that passes screening can be handled in one of three ways: it can be assigned to an OIPRD civilian investigator, referred to another police service, or sent back to the originating service for self-investigation.
I don't often say nice things about the Toronto Star, since they so rarely deserve it, but they've done a yeoman's job on the G20 civil rights violations. It's a tragedy that they don't apply some of that gumshoe skill to Medicare's meltdown. But, of course, that would require questioning their socialist world view. Still, they do occasionally provide a useful service. Such as clarifying to the general public just how much their Charter Rights are worth.
Coureur de Moi
Face it. They do look adorable. If the political thing doesn't work out, I'm sure the Bay would love to have Justin and family in their 2011-2 winter ad campaign. Maybe we could see the Son of Pierre doing a bit of fur trapping himself. Laying out the trap lines. Killing the hungry and wounded beavers. Gutting the carcasses. Pierre Le Pirouette might have been macho, but Justin and his merry band of coureur des bois? Forgetaboutit!
It would also be a subtle nod to his father's legacy. After all, Pierre famously imposed peacetime wage and price controls, which helped create our very own disco era black market. The coureur des bois were the original Canadian - or more accurately Canadien - backwoods black marketers. Full circle, eh? Your ancestors told busy-body officials to stuff their regulations, now you run off to Ottawa to become one of the regulators. The sad arc of French-Canadian culture. From bold adventurers exploring a continent, to the New World's equivalent of uptight Parisian bureaucrats.
This makes two high profile stunts in a row for Justin "I'm not my father" Trudeau. In trying to get Tony Genco elected in Vaughan, Justin hysterically denounced Julian Fantino's criticisms of the Charter of Rights and Freedom. It was a nice kick at Mr Law and Order, particularly after his peek-a-boo policing in Caledonia. Still, it was a defense of a pretty weak piece of law.
I'm not that big a Charter fan myself. Sure it's a bill of rights. We probably needed one too. But it's a constitutional safeguard in the sense that a submarine with a screen door is water-tight. You have all these rights, unless - under Section One - the Supreme Court decides you don't have any of these rights. An engraved invitation to judicial activism.
Continuing on the theme of defending good causes in a bad way, Justin has drowned - the little tykes look about to vanish beneath the furry waves - his family in dead animal skins. He's even sporting a leather jacket. So, that's at least two kinds of dead animal for the price of one PR stunt. Value for money. Just like the old man, really. All we need is another photo shoot, with Justin giving the finger to some PETA activists, while munching on delicious pemmican, and he'd make everyone in Alberta forget about the National Energy Program.
Now what was the point of playing One Millions BC with his adorable clan? Could he really have been clueless enough not to think this would cause controversy? Is he so obsessed with imitating his father he forgot about contemporary Greenista attitudes? A Trudeau courtier defended the furry photo-oping thusly:
Alex Lanthier, an aide to the Montreal MP, said the card wasn’t intending to make a statement on fur. The family wore the coats they own and because they know the people who run Canada Goose.
“It’s a good Canadian company,” he said. The coats are made from sustainable products, he said.
Unless the beavers - or whatever you're slaughtering - go extinct.
Justin missed a wonderful opportunity here. He should have followed in the foot steps of ex-GG Michaelle Jean, who snacked on seal meat to defend the right of the Inuit to hunt. Instead of giving his full throated support to the Canadian fur industry - which literally built this country - and putting many Greenista noses out of joint, his flack gave a half-assed excused.
Pere Trudeau impressed many Canadians with his guts. He stood down the FLQ - while bribing more moderate elements in Quebec - and told Richard Nixon to take a hike, something the sleaziest American President in living memory deserved. Pierre Trudeau defended bad ideas with panache. Justin only has the bad ideas and lame excuses about how killing animals is "sustainable."
Sure it is, in the sense that we've been doing it for thousands of years. "Sustainable," however is code for having as small an impact on the environment as possible. Slaughtering animals by the thousands for their coats is many things, but having a small impact on nature isn't one of them.
Now, what I'd really want for Christmas is Stephen Harper and his family (every bit as adorable as the Trudeau family) decked out in furs munching on a nice steak. It wouldn't make up for all the backtracking he has done over the years, but it would be a nice signal that he hasn't gone completely "native" up in Ottawa.
Monday, December 20, 2010
You Call This Opposition?
I sometimes wonder why Michael Ignatieff even tries:
Upstaged yet again by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who took to the stage Wednesday night at the Conservative caucus Christmas party, the Liberals were up early grumpily emailing reaction.
“Not even one song in French,” a senior Ignatieff official told The Globe and Mail on Thursday morning. “One week after Quebec’s artistic elite (over 100 songwriters and singers) came to Parliament Hill on C-32. It shows that he is clueless about Quebec culture.”
It's pretty clear that the PM was both having a bit of fun, as well as trying to humanize his image. Being completely tin eared, this Iggy flack immediately went into talking-point mode. Stephen Harper might be "clueless about Quebec culture," as are most Anglophone Canadians, but at least he can take a joke. Occasionally.
Not only do the Grits suck at off the cuff responses - Iggy's Question Period performance can be reasonably compared to a hectoring fishwife - but also articulating formal policy. Take the example of the so-called iPod Tax:
The issue of Liberal support for an "iTax" hit a fever pitch this week with competing releases - the Liberals stating they are against it and the Conservatives releasing a radio ad that says the Liberals support such reforms. That led some to ask for evidence to sort out the competing claims. This post is an attempt to do that.
First, it is clear that the radio ad is factually wrong. The Liberals now unequivocally state that they oppose an iPod levy. The radio ad says of the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc "now they all back an iPod tax." There isn't much room for interpretation here - the Liberals have stated their current policy and the Conservative ad says the opposite.
Now when you see trouble, the sensible thing is to try to avoid it. The typical voter pays about as much attention to political news as to the speed limit signs on the way from work. That this tax is suppose to help support musicians, who are the victims of music piracy, isn't going to sink in. What most voters are going to hear is: Liberals Want to Impose iPod Tax.
That means you avoid the issue like the plague. The possible political benefits of supporting such a tax are limited, the downside enormous. Nor is it a matter of principle, as Liberals have no principles, being a centrist brokerage party. The Harper Tories understand this only too well. Take Devinder Shory, MP for Calgary Northeast:
"I can’t think of a single Canadian who wants to pay an extra $75 for an iPod, but Michael Ignatieff and his Liberal MPs joined with their Coalition partners in calling on the Government to implement the iPod tax,” said Devinder Shory, MP for Calgary Northeast.
Now whatever support the Grits might have offered for this tax, they now oppose it. The Coalition died its unholy death nearly two years ago, and Michael Ignatieff bitterly opposed it within the caucus. So much so Iggy helped to overthrow the then Liberal leader, Stephane "Kyoto" Dion. No wonder Conservatives govern as if they had a majority, they face no intelligent or forceful opposition.
Julian and the Victims
Mr Fantino goes to Ottawa:
"I think we tend to minimize the impact of crime," said Fantino, who enters politics after 40 years as a police officer.
"I have never had any tolerance whatsoever for crime, to begin with. And also, I have never been able to overlook the victimization that's involved. We can talk about statistics, we can banter around, we can say it's up, it's down, it's sideways, but I've had to deal with real victims. I've had to deal with the real gnawing consequences: the trauma, the tragedy of crimes -- especially violent crime, at its very core."
Fantino said it's this direct experience on the front lines that gives him special insight into the criminal justice issues that are hotly debated in the House.
I don't know how Julian Fantino sleeps at night. To utter those words, while having been OPP Commissioner during the worst of the Caledonia Crisis, requires a cognitive disconnect that beggars imagination. It's the sort of double think we expect from politicians, but a police officer? The former head of the second largest force in Canada?
Regular readers will know that I have a very low opinion of elected officials. Most would - metaphorically - throw their own mothers under the bus for a few dozen votes. The typical celebrity would do much the same for face time on national television. There is something about fame and media attention that attracts the worst elements of human nature.
Despite my civil libertarian polemics, I have enough regard for Canadian police officers to believe that, in truly dangerous situations, most would risk their lives to protect the public. Issuing speeding tickets to meet a quota, or roughing up a violent thug, are small beer compared with the serious crimes that threaten peaceful life in Canada: murder, rape, arson, theft, arson, assault and riot. We employ the police, mainly, to protect peaceful and civilized human beings from the violent in our midst. When an officer fails in that task, he does more than fail to do his job, he violates a sacred trust.
With that in mind, I'd like to highlight this bit from the ex-Commissioner's panegyric to his own career:
We can talk about statistics, we can banter around, we can say it's up, it's down, it's sideways, but I've had to deal with real victims. I've had to deal with the real gnawing consequences: the trauma, the tragedy of crimes -- especially violent crime, at its very core."
As has been established, Mr Fantino has a flare for the histrionic. He seriously compared his by-election campaign in Vaughan to facing violent criminals. Typically politicians develop this easy abuse of the English language after some years of active campaigning. Then again, it's arguable that Julian Fantino - who has not served as a beat cop in over twenty years - has been a politician in uniform for some time now. Perhaps words have lost their meeting to the former head of the OPP.
Speaking of victims, here is one victim that Julian Fantino did not have the courage to meet, Pam ‘Dancer’ Dudych. Pam is a teenager living in Caledonia whose life became a living hell after the occupation of the Douglas Creek Estate. She described her daily existence in a school project thusly:
You can’t call the police because they can’t help you. You’re locked in your own home. A few days later, when it calms down, you have to go to school. But you can’t get to school by bus anymore so you have to drive a 30 min. ride to school when it only took 2 minutes unless you wen’t through the blockade. But you could only do this if you had a pass, but even when we got one, it was whether they felt like letting you go through or not. If they did let you go, it was like you’re in prison, gates everywhere, men with masks over their faces only to see their eyes. Men holding bats some even with guns, it was a living hell. I had to live through that. You don’t know what life is like until you have lived through it.
“I’m a competitive dancer, and love to dance outside on the side lawn, but I wasn’t able to unless I could take the pressure of getting stares or firecrackers thrown at me. Now I take medication and go to counselling because of all of this. A 14 year old should not be doing that!
in 2009 Haldiman Mayor Marie Trainer - one of the few public officials to conduct themselves honourably during the Crisis - asked then Commissioner Fantino to meet with Pam and her family, as well as Dave and Dana Brown (who later won a settlement against the Ontario government). Fantino said he was too busy.
Fantino, however, had plenty of time to meet with Clyde Powless, the aboriginal activist charged with attacking Gary McHale during an initially peaceful protest. Fantino even wrote an e-mail, used as a character reference at Powless' assault trial, praising the activist for helping to lower tensions during Douglas Creek Estate stand off. The e-mail laid much of the blame for McHale's assault on McHale himself.
"Much of the conflict, confrontation and provocation has occurred during the times that Mr Gary McHale and his followers have converged on on Caledonia that invariably resulted in heightened tensions and conflict that required an extraordinary deployment of police resources in our efforts to preserve the peace."
(Pg 210, Helpless by Christie Blatchford)
Blaming the victim is not the sort of thing that someone concerned with victims' rights - to say nothing of a police officer in the line of duty - should be doing. As Commissioner, Julian Fantino showed concerned only for some victims, those to whom the display of justice and compassion was politically expedient. In making excuses for Powless' criminal actions, Fantino sounded like a bleeding heart judge, pleading that the poor thug was a victim of circumstances. Talk about hug-thug politics.
When faced with real victims of real crime, Julian Fantino turned his back. He talks the talk, but when bad PR loomed, he failed to walk the walk.
Now ensconced as MP for Vaughan, Fantino has become Stephen Harper's prized candidate. Mr Law and Order for a Law and Order Party. In a different age, it would be almost certain that the Liberal Opposition would hound Fantino for Caledonia. But today, or in the immediate future, they will not. Politically correct to the bone, the Grits will never raise the issue of how anarchy took hold in rural Ontario, just outside of one Canada's largest cities. None dare risk the charge of racism.
Shame on the media for their cowardice. Shame on the Opposition for their dereliction of duty. Shame on Julian Fantino. Shame. Shame. Shame.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Dutch Style Health Care
It sounds less scary than American style health care:
The Fraser Institute wants Canada to lift a page from the Swiss and Dutch health-care playbooks.
According to the institute's Mark Rovere, both Switzerland and the Netherlands have a public health-care system, but all health insurance is private.
"Of course, the devil's in the details," Rovere said. "You have to regulate the insurance industry, but those are two countries that have zero wait lists and a universal health care system."
It's government run health care, it's just less government run. Taking your poison in milimetres rather than troy ounces. Make what you will of the Dutch approach, the truly interesting bit in this article comes from this classic response by a Medicare defender:
He said the government "clearly needs to increase capacity" in the health-care system. The biggest problem, he explained, is a shortage of people willing to work in health care.
Now why would people be unwilling to work in health care? There are certainly shortages of skilled professionals in many fields, a result of public education school turning out sociology majors rather than engineers, and university graduates rather than skilled tradesmen. Central planning in education doesn't work much better than in other aspects of life.
The problem with Medicare, however, is the willingness of skilled professionals to enter the system. Might not the problem, then, be the system itself and not a minor aspect that can be fixed by the mystical force called "political will?"
Thursday, December 16, 2010
The lawyers babble:
The court reserved judgment after a three-hour hearing, in which several lawyers warned that hyperlinks make the Internet tick, and exposing writers to lawsuits for linking to defamatory postings would cast a wide chill.
Several judges seemed receptive to the argument, and Justice Louise Charron who speculated that Internet users would be afraid to link to other material if the court made them legally responsible for their actions.
I write here, of course, from grave personal interest. Blogging is linking. This seems to be legal overstretch at its worst. Linking to an article or website does not imply the linker thinks something to be true. Do you think I link to the Red Star because of their witty editorials and balanced reporting? Few are going to take the risk of being sued, just to comment on a controversial story. Chill indeed.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
What's the best why to reduce the availability of housing stock in a large city? Make it as unappetizing as possible for owners to rent out their properties. Case in point, Ontario's Residential Tenancies Act:
The law appears to have been drafted on the assumption that all landlords are rich and greedy. Under the Act, a tenant can allow anyone to move into his or her unit indefinitely. So after you sign a lease for, say, a one-bedroom apartment, you can invite your unemployed buddies to come stay with you — forever. The Act does not require you to give names, addresses or references to the landlord. Even if you decide to move out, the scrubs can stay behind until they are formally evicted, which requires a court order … which, in some cases, the landlord cannot obtain because he doesn’t even know what name to put on the eviction notice.
The Ontario government's war against landlords is not a recent phenomenon. Bill Davis, the Greatest of all of Ontario's Red Tories, imposed rent controls in 1975. With Conservatives like these, who needs the NDP? A statist tradition which Stephen Harper, whom Brampton Billy endorsed, has diligently continued.
Not surprising to those acquainted with rudimentary economics, these controls soon produced a crippling shortage of rental properties in Ontario, particularly in Toronto. These controls have been tinkered with over the years, but not abolished. Landlords, unless they get permission from a government board, are limited to a certain percentage increase each year. 2.1% for 2010 and a whopping .7% for 2011.
While this hasn't destroyed the rental housing market in Toronto, it has limited rental housing starts. Over the last three decades the city has instead seen a massive boom in condominium construction. Having been restrained from making steady profits in the rental market, capital simply moved into the business of building and selling housing. Not surprisingly, in years after the imposition of rental controls, Toronto had very low vacancy rates.
Over the last few years vacancy rates have been trending upwards, because while the quantity of housing units being supplied has fallen, the quantity demanded has fallen even further. This has been chiefly thanks to low interest rates, which makes buying more affordable. Rent controls in Ontario seem to be partially binding. High enough to make sense for existing housing stock to be maintained, but not high enough to encourage new constructions. The result is that new demand for housing stock is being met instead through condo construction.
A complete scrapping of controls would probably not, at the moment, produce much of a spike in rents. Consumer inflation is low and vacancy rates are at historic highs. From the perspective of practical politics, now is probably the best time in decades to scrap these controls. There would be little immediate negative effect - no skyrocketing rents pushing angry renters to besiege Queen's Park - but could convince developers that rental units are once again a sound long-term investment. Once interest rates return to their historic norms, vacancy rates are likely to fall, producing a windfall opportunity for those who already have rental stock in place.
Such are the dreams of free marketers, which in are rarely met in this economically fallen age. However much sense it makes to have a free housing market it has not, nor will it soon, come to pass. What keeps the absurdity of rent controls in place is not economics but ethics.
It is widely believed that landlords - who are perceived to be rich plutocrats - have a moral duty to provide homes to renters - who are perceived to be, and usually are poor. Since most middle class Canadians are owners, rental controls sound to them like another government program for the poor. Little different in principle from progressive income taxation. A bit of Robin Hooding for the apartment crowd.
But it is not an ideal consistently adhered to. The electorate believes that landlords have a right to be make a profit - be selfish - but only up to a point, beyond which their conduct becomes immoral i.e. gouging. This contrasts with parts of Europe, where squatting is legally encouraged. A political system in which property is privately owned, but its actual use is controlled by the government, is correctly described as fascism. What we have had in Ontario since 1975 is rental fascism.
The brother's keeper approach to housing policy may rest on altruism, but it's a one sided altruism. The landlords are selfish for demanding a market clearing price for their property, the renters, however, are not being selfish by demanding a below market price for their housing. It is altruism for a selected class of privilege. Their need gives them a moral right to demand something they have not earned. When that something being demanded nearly vanished, the needy complained about the greedy. They had only themselves, and their ethical code, to blame.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
The sight of police officers arresting a suspect is not a pleasant one. Even when handled with restraint and calm by both the officers and the suspect, it can send shivers up the spine. Restraining a suspect who is resisting arrest is a violent, but a sometimes necessary, aspect of a police officer's duty. Either the threat, or demonstration of overwhelming force is often the easiest and safest way to end a violent situation. Frighten the suspect into submission. Placed out of context, these acts can easily be seen as police brutality.
If Ottawa-area make-up artist Stacy Bonds had a lengthy criminal record, it's unlikely much attention would have been paid to her arrest and strip search two years ago. Had she been accused of a serious crime, not public intoxication, it's unlikely she would have garnered the sympathy she has so far. Had she violently resisted arrest, or made unprovoked physical attacks on the officers conducting her search, then the conclusion of most dispassionate observers would have been of sympathy for the officers, and contempt for Bonds.
The videos that have been released in recent weeks of Bond's arrest and strip search, show a slight woman being roughly handled by three male and one female officer. The video, embedded above, also shows, and this point has not been mentioned very often in the media, Bonds kicking Constable Melanie Morris. Only after kicking Const. Morris was Bonds forced to the ground and her bra cut off with scissors.
A few seconds before the kick we see the officers violently grabbing Bond's hair and arms. This seems to have been in reaction to Bonds showing the slightest resistance to being searched, a small turn to the left, which is visible at the 42 second mark of the above video.
A terrified young woman, with little apparent experience in dealing with the police, did not react with complete docility. That is why she was arrested and attacked by four Ottawa Police officers, in a botched cell block search. Bonds was initially stopped for allegedly taking a sip from a bottle of beer, though the bottle was never recovered, and briefly questioned by a trainee officer with five months experience. After being let go, Bonds asked the officer, John Flores, as to why she was stopped. Then she was arrested.
Perhaps she was less than respectful to the officer. Had she kept quiet and been deferential, it's unlikely she would have been further bothered by the police. Rather than behaving like a docile automaton in the presence of authority, she behaved like a free person, annoyed at being pestered and then angry at being violently manhandled by public servants. What she did was perhaps not the smart thing to do, it was the human thing to do.
To say that the officers showed an appalling lack of judgement, is an understatement. They behaved, whether due to inexperience or arrogance, toward a small and harmless woman in manner that might have been excessive in dealing with an enraged 300 lb. biker. It was not so much what those four officers did, but with whom and why. Had Stacy Bond behaved as expected, it's unlikely the arrest or attack would have occurred.
The danger here is not of officers using excessive force. In life and death situations the appropriate amount force is never an easy judgement. The real threat to our civil liberties, perhaps even our lives in extreme circumstances, is the expectation by some officers of not simply respect, but outright subservience by members of the public.
Being rude to a police officer - and there is no evidence that Bonds was rude or violent to anyone until manhandled - is not a criminal offense. I've personally witnessed instances of police intimation, simply because a citizen was somewhat rude to an officer, a rudeness no worse than what a cashier at Wal-Mart gets on a daily basis. When dealing with members of the general public, expect to meet a fair-share of hot-headed idiots, or just ordinary people under stress.
A police officer who cannot politely but firmly deal with the general public, should seek other employment. An officer who looses his cool in extreme situations, should be given the benefit of the doubt, and punished when and where appropriate. Such clashes between generally law abiding members of the public and the police, whether at the APEC summit, the G20 in Toronto this summer, or cases like those of Stacy Bonds, highlight a growing sense of superiority by some officers over ordinary citizens.
I can recall that even fifteen or twenty years ago, there was an enormous respect for the police in Toronto, something not much in evidence after the G20 fiasco. For years the police were assumed to be automatically in the right. In recent years there has been an increasing lack of respect for officers. Mention you had an interaction with a cop, from a speeding ticket or something more serious, and the almost instant reaction are mini-rants about how all cops are SOBs.
Nor are these tirades from the libertarians or anarchists, but ordinary political middle of the roaders with no apparent axes to grind. There is an arrogance and swagger, which some officers exhibit, that is off-putting. Most people have either a strong suspicion, or fear of authority, an overbearing cop can exacerbate these fears. Just as a cop's fight or flight instincts can kick in, so can a ordinary member of the public's own survival instincts.
Part of police training is reminding frontline officers that the peaceful members of the public are afraid of them, and they need to conduct themselves with that in mind. When stopped by an officer, the mental reaction of most people is: "What did I do wrong?" The best officers are the ones who can, while maintaining authority, still place a citizen at ease during ordinary interactions. It's partly training, and partly a natural empathy. It's a very hard balancing act, but it's what they are paid to do.
After a series of unwise judicial rulings, and the adoption of a very lax approach to sentencing, the 1960s and 1980s witnessed an explosion of crime through out the United States. This was mirrored, though to a far lesser extent, in Canada. This, in turn, provoked a long and sustained reaction from both the police, and the general public, to what was seen as molly coddling from the bench.
Even after crimes rates began to drop and stabilize at relatively low levels, this "get tough" approach remained in the public mind's. Accusations of police brutality were dismissed as scum bags trying to escape punishment, or attempts at revenge toward officers who were protecting the public. Infringements of civil liberties were downplayed, as part of the battle against out of control crime.
Those who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, the people now assuming positions of power, either witnessed the epidemic of crime first hand, or were bombarded with its media images. This created in some an exaggerated, though understandably, deference to the police. The pendulum simply swung too far the other way.
The newer generation of police officers often expect such deference, and feel threatened when it is not offered. It is not too great a leap, for these officers, to go from assuming a mouthy suspect might become a violent one. For sake of any future Stacy Bonds, and all of us, the cult of deference needs to be replaced with one of simple respect.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Pretty in Pink
It's hard to stay angry at Don Cherry.
I haven't quite forgiven him for his support of Julian "Caledonia" Fantino. Still, just when I'm trying to stay pissed, he goes off and delivers one of the greatest rant in Canadian history. Perhaps there's some long forgotten off the cuff Jeremiad by Dief or Laurier, a real doozy, that tops this performance by hockey's most colourful colour commentator, but I doubt it. I don't mean that Cherry delivered the Gettysburg Address. No, Grapes gave us a pure unadulterated rant. Bless him.
Technically he shouldn't have done it and Rob Ford shouldn't have invited him to the inaugural. But the Toronto MSM - which is as pink as bubble gum and twice as soft - couldn't just sniff haughtily at Grapes and Rob and let it go. No they had to tempt fate. They even picked on Grapes for going to church. Below the belt that. You don't believe in God? Neither do I. But I try to be tactful enough not to insult people for what they do on their private time and dime.
The MSM is dealing with primal forces here. You get the feeling that when Mayor Ford was in knee pants he got into a lot of fights. I'm guessing he won quite a few of them. Same with Grapes. Latted Ryerson j-school graduates aren't all that threatening in perspective. Thus the former coach of the Boston Bruins began his tirade:
“Well, actually, I’m wearing pinko for all the pinkos out there that ride bicycles and everything, I thought I’d get it in. (laughs, claps, oohs) What’d ya expect, Ron MacLean here, to come here?
Ron MacLean is what most Canadians are, a decent guy doing a good job. Don Cherry is who, in their angry moments, Canadians wish they could be. Enough with the damn politeness for once, this is what I really think. Don Cherry as the Canadian Id.
Certainly his rant to the new City Council was pretty unorganized. He just got up and said what a great guy Rob Ford is, what a fantastic job he is going to do and that pinkos suck. Much the same has been said in bars and Tim Hortons across Toronto these past weeks. Ford is the great middle class hope for Toronto.
When then councillor Ford denounced bikes and bike lanes as an impediment to the flow of traffic - which they obviously are - he was condemned by the pinko choir invisible. Why? Because Ford had the temerity to tell an obvious truth to a council obsessed with inflicting Greenista dogma on a modern city. The dominant means of getting around Toronto is the internal combustion engine. Has been for nearly a century now. Having a few bicyclists holding up several blocks worth of buses and cars makes no sense. But car hating is part of the environmentalist creed. Ford pointed out that the environmentalist emperor was naked as a newborn.
When Mayor Ford did was to invite the loud mouth uncle to Christmas dinner. He knew perfectly well that loud mouth uncle and pretentious spinster aunt don't get along, but he decided that some free entertainment would go well with the turkey. Spinster aunt, who doesn't like meat of course, was appalled by loud mouth uncle's poor table manners, and said so. Loud mouth uncle put spinster aunt in her place. It was poor taste all around, but you know auntie had it coming and are secretly pleased with loud mouth uncle's guts.
Much has been made of how the election of Rob Ford was about the plebs triumphing over their social and intellectual betters. Clearly the uncouth, portly and blonde Ford was just some nasty bigoted throw back, standing athwart progress toward the Pinko New Jerusalem, soon to be built in Toronto's grey and unpleasantly clogged streets.
Ford's shocking victory - well it was shocking to the Leftists anyway - has produced the usual rationalizations. It was terrified white voters reacting to Toronto's diversity! Toronto has been a minority-majority city for some time now. It's been a good three decades since anyone could seriously describe the Imperial Capital as an Orange stronghold.
The ethnic vote also clearly split for Ford. The realization is slowing sinking in that the ethnics have wandered off the Leftist plantation. A hard but very real truth. After decades of taking the immigrant and first generation vote for granted, the Toronto Left is confronted with a political awakening. Without allies in the middle class, how long can the Left stay in power? For the first time in many moons, the long-term electoral numbers are looking good for the Hogtown Right.
Slowly, but surely, the ethnics are realizing that the nice sounding Liberal and NDP politicians, ever ready with a trowel worth of collectivist flattery, are not their friends. The bald statist in the red tie would impose more taxes and regulations. The fat white guy is promising to leave them alone to manage their businesses and raise their families, thus saving them the move to Hazel-land. Thanks to Jason Kenney's tireless rubber curry summitry, the same phenomenon is also being seen at the federal level.
The frequent rants, by both Grapes and Ford, about how the city's elite is screwing over the ordinary Joes have been regularly mocked in Red Star and elsewhere. How can two famous millionaires pretend they are not members of the elite?
Well, elitism isn't so much an income bracket as a state of mind. it's looking down on people because they don't like what you like. Sometimes that's justified. But a little recognition that even if the proles don't like avant garde dance routines, at least they perform some useful function in society (unlike the avant garde dancers).
Years ago my maternal grandfather, a sweeter and gentler soul that your unhumble correspondent, was walking with friends through a posh area of Lisbon. A day labourer in the farmlands of the Alentejo, he was dressed simply. Two upper class women - the equivalents of the Holts bag-totting pashminas of modern Toronto - dismissed them, asking aloud what these "shits" were doing in the high-rent district.
My usually polite grandfather replied: "If it wasn't for us shits, you bitches would have starved years ago." There's a difference between being an elitist and being a bitch. An elite, secure and intelligent enough to understand we are all part of the same society, each doing our honest bit, wouldn't have so crudely insulted Don Cherry and Rob Ford. All the "shits" are asking for is a little respect. The bitches should keep that in mind.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Dosanjh in the Dock
And you thought Canadian Human Rights Tribunals were a pain:
Jatinder Singh Grewal, a member of a group called Sikhs for Justice, has launched a complaint against Dosanjh and a court in Chandigarh, India, will hear the case on Dec. 10.
The 25-year-old man from Brampton, Ont., accuses Dosanjh of making defamatory remarks about Sikh youth when the MP was at a news conference in India this fall. Dosanjh was there promoting a documentary about his life.
The Liberal MP's crime? Denouncing terrorist elements within the Sikh community. Keep in mind that Dosanjh is himself a Sikh. Many conservatives complain about how Canadian politicians are too gutless to denounce terrorist influences within some of Canada's minority groups. Well, here is an MP doing exactly that, and has been doing it for more than a quarter of a century. He was even beaten up for speaking out against terrorism. You may not agree with much of Dosanjh's politics - he is an ardent supporter of Medicare - but his courage deserves to be recognized.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Off The Rails
To put it mildly:
The Toronto Police Service “has made many public mistakes over the last 72 hours,” one Ontario Provincial Police officer wrote to another during the controversial crackdown on protesters during last June's international summit. “The public has largely supported police security operations for G20. What is not supported is the actions by TPS and the inconsistencies of answers they continue to provide….”
The internal e-mail, which explained why the OPP and the RCMP declined to participate in a joint news conference with their municipal counterparts, is the latest indication that the Toronto force went off the rails last summer. And along with other revelations on Tuesday, it stands to put even more heat on embattled Police Chief Bill Blair.
Yeap. Even the OPP and RCMP thought Bill Blair went too far.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Neither Equal Nor Effective
The Conservative Party betrays rep by pop.
Under the legislation, Ontario would have received 18 new seats, British Columbia seven, and Alberta five, bringing all three provinces up to the level of representation in the House warranted by their populations.
Sources report that the Conservative, Liberal and NDP leadership encountered strong resistance to the bill among Quebec and Maritime MPs, who correctly argued that their regions would have relatively less influence in the House. The Bloc Québécois opposed the legislation from the start.
The Liberals and Conservatives especially feared that passing the bill could harm the electoral prospects of their Quebec MPs.
A backgrounder on rep by pop is here.
A Globe reader from the 1850s, who fell through a rip in space-time, would be amazed at how little has changed in a century and a half. Fast growing regions like the West, and cities like Toronto, are kept under-represented in order to appease the Quebecois. Canadian history on an endless video loop.
One of the central goals of Confederation was to sidestep the whole issue of rep by pop. Quebec was never going to agree to representation by population, for fear of being swamped by Anglophone MPs. English speaking Canada (at least those regions that were growing) were frustrated at having their own interests undermined (Catholic Schools, the Grand Trunk Railway) by Francophone MPs and a small rump of their Anglophone allies.
The solution was to create a federal system. The Quebecois could guard their own interests, within a province in which they were they were the majority. The region that became Ontario got rep by pop at the federal level. It was a deal that worked well, until the emergence of the modern welfare state and the equalization support system of the mid-twentieth century.
With so much money, and consequently power, now flowing through the coffers and corridors of Ottawa, federal elections became high stakes games for over-represented areas. This was especially true of Quebec, with its outsized governmental establishment and overly generous benefit system. The old Gallic shrug of the shoulders to federal politics was no longer an option, thus the Bloc's tenacious opposition to electoral reform.
One of the great problems of democracy is that a majority can oppress a minority. Without rep by pop the reverse occurs, a minority can oppress a majority. In modern Canada that takes the form of inter-regional looting, known by the pleasant sounding euphemism of equalization. Look at it from a politico's point of view.
Trying to form a majority government? Well P.E.I. has four seats, but a with a population of about the size of a single GTA riding. Bribing P.E.I. voters with GTA money makes electoral sense. While the equalization and social transfer program don't allow the process to be quite so brazen, the end result is much the same. Lots of federal dollars get earmarked for special projects in P.E.I. - under the guise of regional development, say - and very little by comparison gets spent in Mississauga, North York or Markham.
The rotten boroughs of the Maritimes, and the ethnic nationalist strongholds of rural Quebec, lie at the heart of Canada's statist majority. They benefit greatly from this unfair system, allowing the costs to be borne by the richer and more populous Ontario and the western provinces. One of the laments of Conservative Party hacks - or excuses depending on your perspective - is that there is no natural conservative majority in Canada. Thus the need to tread carefully.
A big part of the reason why there is no natural conservative majority - at least at the federal level - is that our electoral system is rigged in favour of the more statist regions. Given the opportunity of addressing this historical imbalance, the Harper Tories have opted for short-term appeasement of Quebec. In hope of saving a dozen or so ridings, Stephen Harper is sacrificing the future of the party across the country. But betraying conservative principles, for short-term gain, is par for the course for this Prime Minister.
Thursday, December 09, 2010
And the walls, they come a tumblin' down:
Operators of a private Kamloops pain management clinic which has Canada's only stand-up MRI machine say patients from as far away as Newfoundland are coming for imaging studies, and paying from $900 to $1300 out of pocket for such scans.
Dr. Richard Brownlee, the neurosurgeon who co-owns The Welcome Back MRI and Pain Management Centre, said he bought the MRI from an American supplier and installed it at a cost of over $2 million because he believes it has advantages over conventional technology. It allows for imaging of patients in the weight-bearing positions on the spine and joints in which they experience their pain. Scanning patients when they are lying down, as in conventional MRI machines, does not achieve that, he contends.
But don't worry, if we can't have quality at least we have equality. Oops. Spoke too soon:
A Quebec woman who claims that she paid a doctor $2,000 to expedite surgery for her cancer-stricken mother is raising questions about whether bribery is being practiced in the province's health-care system.
Vivian Green said she was doing what she had to in an effort to save her elderly mother, who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after she developed a pain in her side.
The office of Quebec Health Minister Yves Bolduc issued a statement urging anyone with information about bribery in the province's health-care system to report it to the Quebec College of Physicians.
"If this practice does exist it is completely unacceptable," the minister's office said.
If? Very droll. Should they ever do a remake of Casablanca, hopefully the above ministerial flack will be cast in the role of Captain Renault. Shocked, shocked to find corruption in the Quebec health care system? Unlike, say, the Quebec construction industry? Or local Quebec politics? Or provincial Quebec politics?
I cannot tell you the number of Canadians I've met who are stunned by stories like this, as a different generation of Canadians was shocked by the sex scandals in the mainline Christian churches. Canada is no longer, in any real sense, a Christian country, and so we've replaced our old priesthood with a newer and more secular version. The old ones wore black, the new ones wear white.
It seems impossible to many Canadians, even the well educated and experienced, that Canadian doctors would take bribes. I suspect very few would accept actual envelopes across the desk. Too crude. But what about making a few calls for a close friend? Or relative? Or the major donor for a new wing to the hospital? Or a well connected businessman or politician? How about the editor of a major daily? Fear and greed take many forms.
As we have been reminded over the years, La Belle Province is very much a distinct society, in good ways and bad. As a whole, the Quebecois have never had the same legalistic hang-ups as the WASPish bits of the Dominion, and they certainly never bought into the Medicare as hallmark of Canadian identity routine.
This is less finger wagging than a statement of fact. What are commandments in much of the country, are but mild legally themed suggestions in daily Quebec life. A certain contempt for unjust authority is a good thing, as well as a suspicion of authority in general. The other solitude's world weariness is something we anglais should, sparring, learn to appreciate.
Ms Green should be applauded for doing what she could to save her mother. To borrow from the amateur sociologists on the bench, it's the system that made her bad. You don't see ordinary consumers bribing car dealers, grocery clerks, hot dog vendors, real estate agents or baristas. It's not necessary. You pay the listed price and get your good or service. Should a front line employee take to looking the other way, while patrons engaged in "shrinkage," as the retailers call it, he'll be shown the door soon enough.
What makes bribing a doctor a temptation is that it is effectively illegal to simply pay him out of pocket. Whereas in most areas of our daily life we can strike a deal with other people, we can't make a deal with the doctor. Whatever the rhetoric or legalistic technicalities, the doctor works for the provincial government, not us. As with most things government touches there is both too much, and too little, at the same time. Too much paperwork and red tape, and too little of the actual good or service people want.
This comes about when the legal price is set below the market clearing price, what consumers are actually willing to pay. Sure, the doctor might want to work an extra few hours, but only at a higher price. Each additional hour of work cuts down on his personal time, so he wants additional compensation to make up for it.
The government, however, sets a flat rate, so the doctor works his set hours and then hits the golf course. The doctor loses the extra income, and the patients loses the time to be treated more swiftly. This creates a shortage in two ways. It reduces the number of doctors in the system, who seek higher overall incomes elsewhere in the economy, and reduces the amount of service hours provided by the doctors who stay on.
When Medicare's defenders are challenged on its impracticality, they often retort that it's the only way of guaranteeing that the poor get access to care. As our growing waiting lists attest, the guarantee of Medicare isn't worth the order paper it was tabled on.
If the fear is that the poor won't be able to get health care, why not provide the same solution we use to ensure the poor can eat and be housed. The rather simple expedient of giving them money, or a voucher, to meet those expenses? No one, outside of the loonier sections of the NDP, would suggest that the solution to hunger is to nationalize Loblaws. Most Canadians understand that Minister's Choice would make a poor brand.
Medicare survives because it rests upon an ethical ideal. It may not work in the technical sense of not providing sufficient and accessible care, but it is "fairer." It is not fair, by any rational standard, to have old people suffer waiting for hip replacements, because doctors are not being paid what they're worth. It is not fair that political considerations determine the location of hospitals and the purchase of equipment.
The definition of "fair" used by Medicare's defenders it that it is equal for all. The rich and poor have access to the same service. We are all the same. Any attempts to jump the queue are selfish and subvert the good of the whole. It is our duty to sacrifice our interests, even our lives, for the alleged benefit of everyone else. No matter how often editorial writers dip Medicare in 100% Pure Canadian Maple Syrup, the meaning and the message is clear: From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.
It didn't work elsewhere in the twentieth century, don't expect it to work in twenty-first century Canada.
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Miss September Gets The TSA Treatment
All in the interests of national security, of course:
A former "Baywatch" beauty is feeling overexposed after going through what she says was a humiliating body scan by Transportation Security Administration agents at Los Angeles International Airport.
Donna D'Errico, who was the Playboy Playmate in September 1995, says she got a few leers along with the scan and isn't happy about it.
D'Errico, 42, says the encounter occurred at LAX while trying to catch a flight to Pittsburgh with her son, Rhyan, 17.
"I immediately asked why we were having to go through an extra search, and no one else was being made to do so, indicating the long line of other passengers in front of and behind where we had been in line. In a very sarcastic tone, and still holding me by the elbow, the agent responded, 'Because you caught my eye, and they' -- pointing to the other passengers -- 'didn't.'"
D'Errico is still wondering how she caught his eye while others didn't.
"My boyfriend and his partner sailed through with no problems, which is rather ironic in that my boyfriend fits the stereotypical 'look' of a terrorist when his beard has grown in a bit, which it was that evening," she said.
Yeap. Leviathan has now become a pervert.
Publius Takes the Immigration Test
Jason Kenney, the federal immigration and citizenship minister, has tightened the pass requirements for the citizenship test. The new test is certainly an improvement on the politically correct, rubber stamping process of years past. Amazingly enough, the Conservative Party does occasionally behave conservatively. Provided it doesn't risk alienating swing voters.
Imparting in new Canadians the importance of citizenship is a vital first step to integrating immigrants into our society. Still, one has to wonder how native born Canadians might fare on this new extra tough citizenship test. History and civic education in this country is appalling.
Aside from knowing that we have a Prime Minister and not a President - that was in a beer commercial after all - and that John A Macdonald was a high functioning alcoholic, the typical Canadian knows little about Canada. It's not that Canadians don't want to know, it's that much of the educational class never bothered teaching our history, except in politically correct snippets and slogans, summed up by the chant: Europeans bad, everyone else good. As for civic education, the good Canadian knows that the government does owe you a living.
So from the mouth of well meaning ignorance, how would a typical Canadian fare on Mr Kenney's new immigration test? Thanks to the vast resources of this blog, and its network of agents and correspondents through out the Dominion, we have located the typical Canadian. He's a male in his late thirties and lives in Kenora. Which I think is in Alberta. But from Toronto it's hard to tell. We brought the typical Canadian to our high-tech testing center at the corner of Center St and Universe Ave, in downtown Toronto. Here is the test. And here is the typical Canadian's answers:
- Identify four (4) rights that Canadians enjoy.
The right to complain about the weather. The right to complain about how taxes are too high. The right to complain that the government isn't spending enough money on me or my community. The right to stand in the middle of the cookie aisle at Loblaws and block everybody's way (I know who you are).
-Name four (4) fundamental freedoms that Canadians enjoy.
The freedom to speak, unless it offends a politically influential minority group. The freedom to own property, unless it offends a politically influential environmental group. The freedom to protest, unless it offends visiting dignitaries. The freedom to bitch about the weather, unless it offends a co-worker who is a ski-nut.
-What is meant by the equality of women and men?
It means I do what my wife tells me to do, though only after pretending I am doing it because I really want to.
-What are some examples of taking responsibility for yourself and your family?
I go and pick up the welfare check myself, rather than having it mailed and wasting the taxpayers' money on the stamp.
-Who were the founding peoples of Canada?
The Indians, the English, the French, the Portuguese, the Greeks, the Italians, the Chinese, the other Indians, and whoever shows up in the next few years and makes a big enough stink.
-Who are the Metis?
They're kind of like Indians, but not really. Their leader guy was crazy or something. Can I say that? I didn't mean to be offensive. I mean he was kind of weird or something. But I'm sure he was a great guy and all. Really, I mean that. I met one of these guys at work once, he seemed really cool and all.
-What does the word "Inuit" mean?
Eskimo. But like the modern way of saying Eskimo.
-What is meant by the term "responsible government"?
The government is responsible for paying for my health care, education, pension and whatever else I can stick 'em with.
-Who was Sir Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine?
The inventor of that fancy fountain in Shawinigan in front of that hotel near the golf course. You know the one.
-What did the Canadian Pacific Railway symbolize?
That graft, corruption, political manipulation, juvenile anti-Americanism, and screwing over people who don't live in Ontario and Quebec, has been a Canadian tradition since the beginning.
-What does Confederation mean?
Like federation but with more "con" in it. Like transfer payments.
-What is the significance of the discovery of insulin by Sir Frederick Banting and Charles Best?
That it was discovered in Canada by Canadians and not by foreigners, especially Americans.
-What does it mean to say that Canada is a constitutional monarchy?
It means there is this old English lady on my money. I have no idea what she does, but I guess she is probably a nice old lady and all.
-What are the three branches of government?
The Prime Minister's Office, the Prime Minister's wife's office and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
-What is the difference between the role of the Queen and that of the Prime Minister?
The Prime Minister builds the useless community center in his riding, and the Queen (if available) shows up to open it.
-What is the highest honour that Canadians can receive?
To be appointed to the Senate, or some other cushy job with the federal government. Especially the ones that are unionized.
-When you go to vote on election day, what do you do?
I'm not a citizen yet, so why would I be voting? Look, I was just helping out that Liberal MP with some free pizzas during the campaign. Everything was legit and all.
-Who is entitled to vote in Canadian federal elections?
Anyone who isn't in jail, school or can convince the elections agent he's actually Canadian.
-In Canada, are you obliged to tell other people how you voted?
No, because nobody cares.
-After an election, which party forms the government?
Usually the Liberals, but not recently.
-Who is your Member of Parliament?
-What are the three levels of government?
The federal, the provincial and the police who hand out the speeding tickets in my neighbourhood. I don't know who they work for but they must make a killing.
-What is the role of the courts in Canada?
To uphold the laws of Canada, unless it conflicts with their personal political beliefs. At that point they just make stuff up, and then use some latin terms to cover their tracks.
-In Canada, are you allowed to question the police about their service or conduct?
Yes, but not during the APEC conference, the G20, or if you're living in Caledonia.
-Name two Canadian symbols.
Don Cherry's ties. Peter Mansbridge's hairline.
-What provinces are sometimes referred to as the Atlantic Provinces?
The fish one. The Anne of Green Gables one. The ship on the dime one. The other one that no one seems to remember, the one that's half French or something.
-What is the capital of the province or territory that you live in?
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
CTF to Morton: Time to cut spending
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) presented Alberta’s Finance Minister Dr. Ted Morton with its 2011-12 pre-budget submission late yesterday, along with the message to the finance minister that it was time to start cutting spending.
“This is 1988 all over again,” said CTF Alberta director Scott Hennig.“Despite the provincial government running record deficits, to date they have been unwilling to make any tough decisions. Plans to balance the budget don’t mean a thing unless action is taken.”
In its submission entitled “Roadmap to a Balanced Budget,” the CTF makes 25 recommendations to the provincial government for short, medium and long term solutions to balance the budget and put the province back on the right fiscal track.
“Wage freezes for senior staff and hiring freezes aren’t going to fill a $5 billion hole in the budget,” said Hennig. “And they’re not going to fill next year’s $3.8 billion hole either.”
The CTF estimates the Alberta government could have a $3.8 billion deficit in 2011-12, based on current prices for oil, natural gas and the exchange rate. This is over three times more than the $1.1 billion deficit currently projected for 2011-12 by the Stelmach government.
Some of the recommendations in the CTF’s 2011-12 pre-budget submission include:
• a 5 per cent operational spending cut across all ministries;
• extending the three-year capital plan over five years; • negotiating a 5 per cent roll back of government worker’s wages;
• consider unpaid days off for non-essential government employees;
• elimination of the carbon capture and storage program as well as the green transit (TRIP) funding;
• reversing the 2008 MLA pay hike; • reducing the size of cabinet;
• close entry to existing defined-benefit employee pension plans and create new defined-contribution pension plan; • no more borrowing or bond issues for capital.
“This government has spent itself into a position where making cuts is the only option left. They cannot delay any longer, cuts need to be made,” concluded Hennig.
The CTF’s 2011-12 pre-budget submission can be downloaded here.
Steven Paikin on Police Brutality at G20
From testimony before a parliamentary committee:
“They took his accreditation because they wanted to check out whether he was who he said he was. Two police officers held him, He was chippy, he didn’t swear but he was talking a lot. He was saying ‘Why are you holding me. There is no need to hold me. I am who I say I am’,” he said.
“One officer held one arm, The other officer held the other arm and a third officer came up to him and basically told him to shut up three times, punched him in the stomach. He doubled over. The same officer brought his elbow down on the small of his back and flattened him. It seemed to me that that was a massive overreaction to try and check to see whether somebody was who he said he was.”
Paikin is among the most level headed and scrupulous journalists in Canada today. His testimony cannot be easily dismissed.
Desperate Men: Julian, Stephen and Justin
Cry him a river:
For 30 days Julian Fantino held his tongue, campaigning as the Conservative candidate in the suburban Toronto riding of Vaughan, surviving on pizza and trying to ignore the Liberal attacks.
He had vowed to take the high road during his campaign – and he did.
“It was difficult, if you will, to maintain that focus because it did get quite personal, quite nasty and ugly,” he said during an interview this week.
Almost like he was under siege. The normal rules of life just weren't being obeyed, and no one was helping out. Thankfully Julian just kept his mouth shut and everything turned out fine, for him anyway. Sound familiar?
He asserts the Liberals were “desperate” but that he would rather have “faced dangerous people with loaded guns than some of the nonsense” during the campaign.
So the take away from this is that the former commissioner, while physically brave, is thin-skinned when it comes to personal attacks. I'm sure he'll do fine in Ottawa. The histrionic wordplay should also stand him in good stead in our nation's capital.
“I am driven by three things: I know who I am; I know what I’m here to do and I know who I’m here to serve. All this other stuff is just noise, distraction and I am not going to be distracted by what I have to do and what the people of Vaughan have entrusted me to do. They can play their silly games all they want but, you know, sticks and stones …”
Except for one name that the former commissioner was desperate to escape during the campaign: Caledonia. Last week I wrote about how Julian Fantino's by-election is a battle in a long-war against the Harper Tories.
Having long ago abandoned the pretence of being financially conservative, the Conservative Party has, in its promotion of Julian Fantino's political career, destroyed their credibility on law and order. Yet this is only the latest in a series of incidents that show that the Conservatives are not serious about protecting Canadians. Rather than offering an agenda that focuses on fighting violent criminals, they instead target petty fraudsters and perpetrators of victimless "crimes," while dismantling effective rehabilitation strategies. When faced with a challenged to Canada's archaic prostitution laws, the Prime Minister could only crack bad jokes.
After the amateur stand-up, Stephen Harper went on to say that prostitution is "bad for society." I'm sure it is. There are many things which are bad for society. Governments, especially ones as financially strained as ours, need to prioritize.
Hassling the desperate and pathetic, however immoral their actions, is a waste of police resources. What consenting adults do out of sight of the rest of us is their concern. It isn't so much that most Canadians want to keep prostitution illegal, it's that they want it kept away from their families and neighbourhoods. Municipal ordinances can accomplish the same end, but that would not allow the Prime Minister to grandstand as a defender of Canadian decency.
What the Harper Tories are offering Canadians, despite the howling from the paranoid Left, is not conservatism, but it's opposite, a sort of kitsch conservatism. Instead of the real deal, we get an imitation so cheap and shabby it insults the original.
Rather than bringing into a government a real cop, willing to take on judges who play amateur sociologist, we get a politician in uniform, who looked the other way as the rule of law was subverted in rural Canada. Instead of fighting real criminals, we get crusades against petty hustlers, gamblers and whores. This isn't puritanism - the puritans believed the law should be applied equally - but political sleight of hand. See how hard we are cracking down on crime? Belying the rhetoric, real action is needed to overhaul our courts and prisons.
The Prime Minister faces no real opposition. Both Michael Ignatieff and Justin Trudeau are afraid of touching Caledonia, or challenging the Tory's potemkin village of law and order. Any criticism of the so-called crack down on petty offenders, for nonsensical crimes, would immediately get the Grit leader targeted as a "hug-thug" politician. A silly bit of mud slinging that Julian Fantino directed at Justin Trudeau last week. It was a response to the son of the former Prime Minister's over the top attack on Fantino, based on the former commissioner's criticisms of the Charter of Rights. Both Fantino and Trudeau, however, remained silent on Caledonia through out the campaign.
In modern politics even the most trivial of indiscretions is quickly transformed into a scandal, with the inevitable "gate" suffix soon appended. There is no Caledoniagate. That is the scandal. Recruiting a law and order candidate who didn't uphold the laws should be as laughable as a finance minister who has filed for bankruptcy. The latter would never happen, because it would be bad optics. The former is happening for the same reason.
The impeccably liberal Justin Trudeau, the Crown Prince of Grits, is not going to take on a cause that might have him branded as a racist. The nominally conservative Stephen Harper, who is presumed to be a bigot by many simply because of his party label, is definitely not going to risk the charge of racism. This has allowed the real racists of the Caledonia tragedy to go unpunished, those who have exploited the two-tier policing of the occupied lands to their own ends. The near silence from our political class, and the media, is the biggest scandal in Canada today.
Monday, December 06, 2010
The Canadian Wheat Board Explained
"The Conservatives don't have the balls." Amen, brother. And all to appease Quebec.
Security Theatre in Profile
NRO dissects eight myths of flying security:
6. If we fail to search children and grandmothers, terrorists will simply enlist them in their plots.
Yes, terrorists would gleefully wire kids and grannies. And one Palestinian granny already has blown herself up, albeit not while flying or attempting to fly. But finding willing suicide-bomber elders in civilized countries is well-nigh impossible. Were it easy, it would have been done already. As for kids, instead of mauling them, our security screeners should scrutinize the elders traveling with them, as Israel does. Remember that every time a security screener searches a zero-risk flier, that screener is not available to search someone who may pose a real risk.
What prevents North Americans from adopting the generally sensible profiling methods of the Israelis? Reverse bigotry. In an attempt, as understandable as it is dangerous, to avoid repeating the historical injustices of malicious profiling, our governments have simply banned the method outright.
This, of course, fails to prevent actual profiling. Police and security officers are human beings and make assumptions, particularly in life and death situations, based on their personal beliefs and experiences. As you and I do everyday. A bureaucrat declaring that security officers are to be blind automatons only complicates the situation. The result is overcompensation, seen in the foolishness of random screening.
On a recent business trip to the US - thankfully before the junk groping got under way - I was profiled myself. Out of dozens of flyers, a trio of police officers - rather than TSA rent-a-dolts - stopped and asked me if I was carrying cash over $10,000, which must be reported. I was shocked for a moment. Why me? I hadn't done anything wrong. No, but I was the only one on the flight wearing a business suit, and my one carry on item was stuffed with three days worth of clothing. My unshaven appearance probably didn't help. It simply made sense to target the guy who looked like he would be carrying large sums of money, rather than the mother with three kids behind me.
While the officer was courteous, and I tried not to show my annoyance, it was an intelligent bit of profiling. The law being enforced was essentially unjust, a product of the misbegotten American War on Drugs, but part of life is knowing when to pick your battles. The cop knew hassling the mother of three was a waste of time, and might cause a scene, while questioning me in a civilized manner might actually lead to finding what he was looking to find. Making a fuss would get me nowhere, and in any case I was a guest in a foreign country, not a citizen. A Toronto cop asking me the same questioning, while walking down the street, would have gotten a somewhat less congenial response.
Looking for tell-tale signs of danger, rather than screening at random, is the approach the Israelis have used for decades successfully. People flying from certain parts of the world are more dangerous than others. Single men who are agitated are of more concern than grandmothers on pilgrimage.
Such methods can, obviously, be abused, which is why most civilized countries have constitutionally protected rights. The police can ask certain questions, and you can refuse to answer them in most circumstances. Body language is more important than verbal responses. An experienced officer can usually tell the difference between obstinate refusal and panicked evasion. If the official abuses his authority, there are ways of complaining and of peacefully resisting.
Profiling is not a perfect method, and relies on probabilities rather than absolutes, yet that is how most of life is lived. The alternative is an ever intrusive government, demanding to know more and more about everyone, because it cannot rationally discriminate based on objective criteria: Behaviour, place of origin, destination, method of payment etc... Nor is the alternative simply targeting Muslims in general, which is only slightly less foolish than random targeting. There is simply no way of identifying someone's religious and political beliefs unless they choose to express them.
For generations it's been a cliche of the Left that generals are always fighting the last war. In the war against Islamic Fundamentalism, it's the intellectuals that are fighting the last cultural war. This is not the North America of 1960 and our society is not, in the conventional sense, a bastion of racism needing expiation. It's a basically free, basically tolerant society engaged in a low level - but still dangerous - war against primitive religious fanaticism. Failing to use the tools at our disposal, in a intelligent and restrained manner, makes us both less secure and less free.
Saturday, December 04, 2010
Friday, December 03, 2010
A Royal Pain
Following the fleet:
Canada’s navy has told former sailors to shut up about changing the naval forces’ name back to Royal Canadian Navy, a senior officer testified Monday.
“The navy has sort of said to the Naval Officers' Association of Canada: Do not push it. We have bigger fish to fry and we do not want to get everybody upset about something that we can live without,” retired Cmdr. Chris Thain, president of the Winnipeg branch of the Naval Officers Association of Canada, told a Senate committee.
Canada’s navy is officially called Maritime Command.
Nothing stirs the blood quite like "Maritime Command."A cold, military bureaucratic bit of terminological exactitude. Like calling your mother "parental unit one." One wonders a what and a where about these bigger fish. Surely men with destroyers should not be concerned about fish, however big. Perhaps the problem is with the mammals located in Ottawa.
All large organizations, even ones that do useful things like the military, are bureaucracies. A bureaucrat is accountable to the system he inhabits, not whomever the system is intended to serve. The paper-shuffler yearns not to shuffle paper, but to rule those who shuffle it. To reach that lofty perch he must conform to the attitudes and views of his masters. In turn he will expect similar obedience from his subordinates. At a basic level it's the only way a large organization could work, without degenerating into anarchy. The problem emerges when the cogs forget they are also human beings, living in something greater than a bureaucratic mechanism.
The current crop of officers in the Canadian Forces is now two generations removed from Hellyerification. Those officers who opposed this "reform" of our military were sacked, or found their careers stalled. No minister of the crown wants to hear his subordinates tell him: "No, Minister." In other departments subterfuge - a la Sir Humphrey Appleby - is used to thwart ministers. Soldiers, sailors and airmen are a simple lot. Talking out of both sides of your mouth is poor military leadership. It is, of course, an essential attribute of a modern politician.
The politicians appoint - whatever the official promotion workflow - the generals, who appoint the colonels and so on down the line. The new and improved Hellyerized Canadian Forces had very little place for customs and traditions, the rites of passage and confirmation that create regimental identities. Away went the distinctive service uniforms, replaced by a drab olive green, for a time even the system of ranks was changed. Ship captains were called Colonels-at-Sea. While the uniforms and the ranks came back, the Royal part of the name has yet to.
To men who risk life and limb, these tangible bits of their identity were taken away, out of some zealous desire for administrative conformity. The greatest victim of these modernizing jacobins was the monarchy. The dropping of the terms "Royal" from the navy and air force was a not so subtle way of cutting Canada off from its past. Whereas other nations try to build traditions, as a way of strengthening a sense of national identity, the Canada of the 1960s decided to do away with as many traditions as possible. The quest for modernity took the form of a systematic amnesia. Now the amnesiacs who run Canada, and the military, are trying to prevent us from recovering one small, but important bit of what was lost.
Thursday, December 02, 2010
Barack on Deck
North Korea warned Friday that U.S.-South Korean plans for military maneuvers put the peninsula on the brink of war, and appeared to launch its own artillery drills within sight of an island it showered with a deadly barrage this week.
The fresh artillery blasts were especially defiant because they came as the U.S. commander in South Korea, Gen. Walter Sharp, toured the South Korean island to survey damage from Tuesday's hail of North Korean artillery fire that killed four people.
And rumours of war:
Work is picking up on what appears to be China's first aircraft carrier, the Shi Lang. For eight years now, China has been tinkering with a half finished Russian aircraft carrier. Two years ago, this ex-Russian aircraft carrier, Varyag, was renamed the Shi Lang (after the Chinese general who took possession of Taiwan in 1681, the first time China ever paid any attention to the island) and given the pennant number 83.
And the sinews of nations:
China and Russia have decided to renounce the US dollar and resort to using their own currencies for bilateral trade, Premier Wen Jiabao and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin announced late on Tuesday.
Chinese experts said the move reflected closer relations between Beijing and Moscow and is not aimed at challenging the dollar, but to protect their domestic economies."About trade settlement, we have decided to use our own currencies," Putin said at a joint news conference with Wen in St. Petersburg.
The two countries were accustomed to using other currencies, especially the dollar, for bilateral trade. Since the financial crisis, however, high-ranking officials on both sides began to explore other possibilities.
And a President on duty:
President Barack Obama needed 12 stitches in his lip after taking an errant elbow during a pickup basketball game Friday with a group of family and friends visiting for the Thanksgiving holiday, the White House said.
First word about the injury came in a statement from press secretary Robert Gibbs nearly three hours after the incident saying that Obama was inadvertently struck by someone's elbow. The individual was not identified.
Wow. I'd hate to be that guy. I mean the President.
Sure, it's Thanksgiving Day and the leader of the free world is entitled to some time off. It's that the President's conduct after nearly two years in office reflects a kind of insouciance about his job. He's always in a b-ball frame of mind. From time to time he gets a bloody nose, but it's all just a game.
A sweeping health care package, of bewildering complexity, is imposed against the widespread opposition of the American people. Spiralling stimulus costs, whose benefits have amounted to little more than a super-sized pork barrelling project. Meanwhile dangers to the Republic gather.
A China that is openly contemptuous of American power in the Asian Pacific rim. An Iran that is perhaps months away from developing a nuclear weapon. A North Korean foreign policy that is redefining the meaning of the word brinksmanship. The American dollar being turned into toilet paper through the euphemisms of quantitative easing. The last is perhaps the most insidious, as it may provoke competitive devaluation, where other major powers also turn their currencies into toilet paper. The goal? To pursue the mercantilist mirage of "export driven" growth. QE2 could wind up being a modern day Smoot-Hawley.
And little is being done to curb these dangers. The capacity of the United States to defend its interests globally is being withered. Some may cheer the end of the "American Empire." Let us not share their naivety. However bad an American dominated world has gotten, it is infinitely preferable to the alternative. We are today seeing more than the decline of one world world power, we are seeing the possible collapse of an international system that has lasted nearly seven decades. If the American yoke seems harsh to some, image China as the center of world affairs, a nation whose neighbours have spent decades seeking succour from Washington.
The aloof slacker-in-chief shares something important with his critics on the American far Left and far Right. They both labour under the dangerous illusion that foreign policy doesn't matter. Instead they project their utopias outward. That, somehow, if their particular Jerusalems are built in America's green and pleasant lands, the world's affairs will right themselves as a matter of course.
We are all human under the skin, but the human beast is as diverse in habitat and thought as any species on earth. We are potentially monster and saints. The difficultly of stepping out of ourselves, and imagining not just alternate paths, but alternate ways of being, is enormous. Americans (like everyone else) tend to think that people around the world are basically like them. They speak in funny accents, wear different clothes and worship different deities but they aspire to get the same things out of life. To an extent this is true. Most human beings want to be materially secure, have good personal relations with family and friends and be physically safe from harm. What we want is usually the same, how we go about getting it is what defines individuals and societies.
Take Africa, the most backward and primitive of the world's continents. Ask the typical North American why they are poor, and we are rich, and the answers tend to circle around "corruption." The governments are too corrupt, the police are too corrupt, or the people themselves are too corrupt. If only their governments were more honest, these societies would in time flourish.
Pause to consider the honesty theory of economic development, which is widely believed even by educated and intelligent people. Let's reposition it: Do you believe that the prosperity of Canada and America is dependant on the personal integrity of our political class? That we are a few corrupt pols away from becoming Somalia with snow? Politics is a consequence, not a cause.
Blaming social problems on culture is a cliche. Like many cliches, it's also true. Culture can be used as a sort of intellectual short-cut, the intelligent man's shrugging of the shoulders at the alien and inscrutable. Yet it is real. Anyone who has lived in a culturally diverse area can see this in action, both for good and ill. Some groups display certain traits and behaviour, others do not. It's a topic avoided gingerly by most, for in modern North America the charge of bigotry is the most damning. Yet it is there.
The poverty of Africa is not because of corrupt rulers, which is a universal problem that varies only in how brazenly it is conducted. Africa is poor because it is tribal. The nation state is today disparaged as either an engine of bigotry, or an anarchism in a modern globalized world. Whatever its fate in the decades ahead, the rise of the nation state was an important milestone in human development. Virtually all the institutions that make our modern standard of living possible, emerged within a national context.
Elected legislatures, the rule of law and the market economy emerged in nation states. Certainly earlier forms of government had elements of these institutions, but very limited in scope and scale. What allowed these institutions to become major forces in our lives, and generate our very high standard of living, is a national framework.
A nation state is a community of trust that extends beyond personal relations. In tribal or feudal societies, all relations are personal. The individual is bound to clan, tribe and lord. He rarely trusts anyone beyond this circle. Contracts are marginal elements in these types of societies, as are impersonal institutions (like the law). The personal bond is all important. Nationalism creates a commonality between individuals and groups who are not immediately related. They may share language and religion but are otherwise strangers. Yet that commonality allows for relationships to form and develop.
A common allegiance allows complex institutions to form. While more is needed to create a prosperous society than just national identity, there are plenty of poor nations with a strong national identities, it is a necessary condition. The nation allows room for the individual to free himself of the tribe. The danger always exists of the individual then becoming a slave of a national state, but it is far harder to establish a tyranny over many than over a few. An insight at least as old as James Madison.
The leap between the tribal and national is one the peoples of Africa, and much of the world, have not fully made. They still live in the largely Hobbesian world of the tribe. We the citizens of Lockean states, should remember to keep that mind.
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Dion of Kandahar
Our almost-Prime Minister:
Former Liberal leader Stephane Dion questioned Wednesday why Canadian Armed Forces need to train Afghan military to fight the Taliban, when the Afghans were strong enough to defeat the forces of the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
His question was among an array of misgivings about Canada's role in Afghanistan that opposition MPs voiced to top officials from four government departments who testified at the House of Commons special committee on Canada's mission in Afghanistan.
"After all, we are speaking about people that have been able to win against the Soviet Union," he said. "If they were willing to win against the Taliban they would not need so much training ... How come those people who won against the Soviet Union need training?"
This is what the party of C.D. Howe has come to. From managing a vast war-time economy, to failing to understand what a modern military actually does. Well Stephane, let me explain things slowly, for your benefit. The force which defeated - in part - the Soviet army twenty years ago was a guerrilla force using guerrilla tactics. The fancy name is asymmetrical warfare.
When a large, hierarchical military force occupies a given territory it can be challenged by a similarly structured force, or by a guerilla force. Conventional armies will seek to defeat each other in mostly open warfare, as the Allied forces defeated the Nazis in the Second World War. Such armies are fielded by modern nation states, with the political, administrative and economic wherewithal to field such forces. Societies that lack such strengths, and cannot therefore field conventional armies, will sometimes resort to guerrilla forces and tactics to oppose conventional forces. Rather than meeting the occupying force, or in the case or rebellion a government's forces, in open battle, they seek to weaken the conventional force.
While fighters using guerrilla tactics can be quite skilled - though most are not - they typically do not wear uniforms, their command structure is highly decentralized and they seek to harass and disrupt the enemy force. This disruption can take the form of raids on supply lines, assassinations of enemy officers, attacks on land or aerial patrols, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and hit and run attacks on enemy installations. The goal of a guerrilla force is less to keep and hold ground, as a conventional force would, but to prevent their enemy from doing so. In military terms, they are a negative not a positive. They seek to prevent rather than establish.
Guerrilla forces can be used as part of a popular movement to throw out an invading force, as in Afghanistan in the 1980s, or they can be co-ordinated with a conventional force (as during the Peninsular War and the Middle Eastern Campaigns of the First World War). While forces using guerrilla tactics have been successful at removing occupying forces, by making it too costly for the occupiers to remain, and even at overthrowing established governments (as the Castro brothers did in Cuba in 1950s), they are poorly equipped to act as a conventional military force.
A conventional force exists to defend generally established geographic boundaries, and an established government. It will have a clear chain of command reporting to a head of government, or for ceremonial purposes the head of state (as Her Majesty is Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian forces). It will be the responsibility of such a force to defend the country's borders against foreign aggressors (or initiate aggression, depending on the circumstances), and keep the government in power against open rebellion. As a last resort, a conventional military will be used to enforce basic law and order, when local police forces have been overwhelmed, or are in danger of becoming so.
A conventional army is what we are training - or at least attempting to train - in Afghanistan. Turning a loosely controlled group of guerrillas into a disciplined army is no small feat. It might be impossible given the circumstances in Afghanistan, which is why the national army in that country is devoting so much time and money to recruiting new men.
It doesn't take much time to teach even a child to use and maintain an AK-47. It does take rather a lot of time to turn green young men into soldiers. That Stephane Dion, a former leader of the Liberal Party, cannot grasp something so basic about our mission in Afghanistan is a dereliction of his duty as a public official. That Stephane Dion cannot tell the difference between what makes a professional solider in a conventional military, and a goat-herder with an AK-47, speaks volumes about his lack of respect and understanding for our army. There is a lot more to being a soldier than pulling a trigger.